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Winter gardening tips & tricks

The stunning colours of autumn are starting to fade as we move into winter. There’s still some work to be done, and the garden needs a bit more attention and care before it can rest quietly for the winter.

By taking care of these late season tasks, you’ll ensure that your plants and soil stay healthy during the cold, dark months. Now is a great time get out there and do that final clean up in the garden before winter sets in.

A general clean up helps to organise your garden, keeps plants healthy, and returns the soil to homeostasis by removing a variety of pests (including potentially harmful bacteria, fungi, and larvae). It’ll also get your garden primed and ready for action when spring arrives, so you can jump right in.

Some important jobs that can be taken care of quickly

  • Remove and dispose of annuals.
  • Deadhead and trim perennials and woody shrubs of dead or damaged wood.
  • Remove any leaves or plant debris from beds.
  • Empty outdoor containers of their soil and store upside down.
  • Collect fallen leaves and compost them along with any garden and kitchen waste.

Dig up or mulch root vegetables

  • Dig up any root vegetables that have matured to your liking.
  • Crops like beets, carrots, celeriac and parsnips sweeten in flavour when left in the ground to mature at temperatures close to freezing. To get this sweeter flavour, cover them in a heavy layer of mulch, and make sure they’re planted in a spot with good drainage, then just dig up and enjoy as needed.

Prepare unused garden beds for spring

  • Remove all dead or finished plant material including rotting fruit, vegetables, and weeds.
  • Turn over the soil and dig in a 5cm layer of compost or manure.
  • To keep compost viable during the cold months, microbes within the compost piles need to be kept active – which means temperatures must be maintained above freezing.

Clean, sharpen, and store tools to extend their life

  • Use a stiff wire brush to brush dirt off metal utensils. Rub away any rust spots with sandpaper.
  • Rub metal parts with an oiled rag to condition steel and prevent rust. Follow with a dry rag to remove excess oil, and polish if needed.
  • Sharpen the edges of garden forks, hoes, scythes, shears, shovels, and spades.
  • Oil hinges, pins, wheels, or any moving parts on tools such as augers, clippers, pruners, or wheelbarrows.
  • Make a note of any tools that need to be replaced and add them to your wish list.
  • Once clean, store in a dry location.

What to plant now

There are plenty of plants that will thrive in the winter, from shrubs and colour lines to fruit trees and winter vegetables.

Plant vegetable seedlings

  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • lettuce
  • brussels sprouts
  • silverbeet
  • spinach
  • onion
  • silverbeet

Young plants will need protection from frosts with frost cloth. Drape frost cloth over plants but be careful not to let it touch them. If it is too close, a hard frost will freeze it to the plants. Dust your cauliflowers, broccoli and brussels sprouts with derris dust to protect them from the white butterfly and the diamond back moth.

Sow vegetable seeds

  • spinach
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • brussels sprouts
  • lettuce
  • onions
  • peas

Transplant to the garden as the weather warms, and when they are showing at least two sets of true leaves.

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Plant flower seedlings

  • calendula
  • cineraria
  • nemesia
  • pansies
  • polyanthus
  • poppies
  • primula
  • snapdragon
  • stock
  • viola
  • wallflower

Sow flower seeds

  • alyssum
  • calendula
  • cineraria
  • cornflower
  • lobelia
  • lupin
  • nemesia
  • stock

Transplant to the garden as the weather warms and when they are showing at least two sets of true leaves.

Plant camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons for winter colour.

Plant new trees and shrubs before the soil becomes too wet.

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